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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

228                             THE GAY GENIUS

ments of government officials for all the ministries. While serving in
this capacity he had the interesting duty of drafting several decrees in
which he had a rather personal concern. One was a decree depriving
Leeding of his office and compelling him to make up the three years'
mourning for his mother which he had failed to observe. A second one
was for tie banishment of Huiching. The decisions were not his, but
the wording of the decrees came from Su Tungpo's pen. In the case oT
Huiching, the double-Grosser, Su said that "when he was intimate with
his friends, they rubbed their knees together, but overnight they could
bite one another", and that ahe covered half the country with his own
clique". The most interesting job, however, was when he had to draft
an edict conferring imperial honour upon Wang Anshih when the
latter died in April. The wording of this decree required a great
subtlety in the art of damning a man by left-handed compliment.
Officially, it was to be issued in the name of the Emperor, praising
Wang's life and character and conferring upon him the posthumous
title of Grand Imperial Tutor. What Su Tungpo did was to praise
Wang's originality while making it clear that he was referring to his
self-conceit. "He encompassed the entire literature of the six arts and
subjected them to his own judgment. Looking down upon the heritage
of the hundred philosophers, he founded a new school." Subtly the
text went on until Su said: "Alas, why does not such a man live to a
hundred?—the thought draws tears from our eyes." The reader does
not know whether he is reading a fulsome panegyric or a diatribe in
reverse.                                                                  \

Trie post of "Hanlin Academician in Charge of Imperial Edicts" wa^
one reserved for scholars of the highest reputation. Very often it' was'
the next step to becoming a premier. Su Tungpo was therefore near
the top, for although this post was third rank, a premier's position was
only second rank, the first rank being hardly ever conferred in the Sung
dynasty upon anyone. Moreover, the work of drafting imperial edicts
brought him into intimate association with the boy emperor and the
Empress Dowager. The appointment was brought to Su Tungpo's
home by a personal servant from the palace, together with the gift of
an official jacket, a gold belt, and a white horse with a set of gold-plated
silver bridle and saddle ornaments. While the premier's office directly
adjoined the palace on the west side, the hanlin's office was close to the
North Gate of the palace and was considered a part of the palace com-
pound. The work of the imperial secretary was usually done at night,
and when a hanlin was in his office, he was spoken of as being "locked
up for the night". It was the custom for the secretary to be locked up
on the odd days of the month to prepare the edicts to be issued on the
even days. In the evening he would go along the eastern wall of the
palace until he reached the Inner East Gate, where a room adjoining